How to Make a Drill Press Fence

After completing my drill press table, I decided my next step would be to make a fence for it – so I can drill vertical holes in the sides of short boards.

First I cut a 3 1/2″ board of 3/4″ MDF, of a width to match the drill press table.  This first piece will be the face of the fence.

Ready to cut the fence face
Ready to cut the fence face

You’ll notice in the above photo that there’s no support for the cut piece: that when I cut the fence face, it fell onto the concrete.  I should have at least put a mat down to cushion the blow, which resulted in two chipped corners on the face. I placed those on the inside of the fence, so the fence has a flat face to clamp work to.

the fence face dropped to the concrete, chipping the corners
the fence face dropped to the concrete, chipping the corners

I chose the height of the fence face keeping two constraints in mind: the drill press handles should clear the fence, and the chuck should clear the fence.  Some fence designs have cut a bit of the center of their fence to allow for the chuck, but I decided against it.

The handles clear the fence height
The handles clear the fence height
The chuck clears the fence height
The chuck clears the fence height

I then cut a piece for the base of the fence, deep enough to make space for the knobs that will hold the fence to the table.  Since I’ll need to reach over the fence to tighten and loosen these knobs, I did a quick depth check.

Checking the space between the knobs and fence face
Checking the desired space between the knobs and fence face

Lastly, I cut 4 blocks to support the fence face and help keep it perpendicular to the table.  Some designs use triangles for these supports. I used rectangles so I’d have a back surface to clamp to.

4 blocks will keep the face perpendicular to the table
4 blocks will keep the face perpendicular to the table

Next I test-laid-out the blocks and knobs, to make sure everything will fit properly.

testing the layout of the pieces
testing the layout of the pieces

Next I drilled the holes for the bolts that will hold the fence base to the T-rails, then tested to make sure they were the correct distance apart.

Testing the T-rail holes
Testing the T-rail holes

I then glued and clamped the parts together.

glued and clamped the fence together
glued and clamped the fence together

Once the glue dried (a day later) I double-checked and found the face of the fence was a little out of square.  Note the gap between the top of the fence and the square that I held flat against the drill press table.

The fence face is a touch out of square
The fence face is a touch out of square

I noticed the bottom of the face of the fence was a little lower than the base piece of the fence, so on a whim I used a trim router to make the base of the fence flat.

using a trim router to flatten the fence base
using a trim router to flatten the fence base
the bottom is now nicely flat
the bottom is now nicely flat

That did the trick: the face of the fence is now nicely square with the table.

with the flattened base, the face is now square
with the flattened base, the face is now square

Since unprotected MDF will absorb moisture and warp, I put two coats of paint on the fence.  In ages past I would have laid down newspapers to protect the floor and sawhorses, but in the 21st century who has newspapers?

painting the fence to protect it
painting the fence to protect it

Once the paint is fully dried (a day later), you can start using your fence.

using the new fence
using the new fence